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Jerash is a city with a long history, inhabited since the Bronze Age. However, the city started to flourish only in the 1st century BC under Roman rule and became a major trading city in the region. Today, Jerash is considered to be one of the best-preserved Roman cities outside of Italy.
Jerash vs. Gerasa
Jerash is nowadays divided into two parts – an ancient and a modern part. Named Gerasa by the Romans, the city was part of the Decapolis, a group of ten major Greco-Roman cities. When the Arabs founded Modern Jordan, the city was renamed Jerash, an Arabized version of the Roman original name. The Roman monuments are located within walking distance of each other and can only be accessed via the Visitors’ Center (JOD 12). The modern part of Jerash is today’s residential district of the city, where you can find opportunities for lunch, away from the major sights.
Roman Ruins in Jerash
The traces of the Romans in Jerash remain omnipresent. Known as Gerasa during the Roman Empire, the city was one of the major Roman trade cities in the region. The area was so populated that the Romans built various gateways, theaters and temples and were even planning on enlarging the city until an economic crisis hit the area at the end of the 2nd century AD. Eventually the Roman Empire fell and Gerasa started to deteriorate.
Excavation works on site started at the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the buildings have been restored carefully – mostly with original stones and in their original size. A large majority of the sights is well preserved. That is why sightseeing in Jerash almost feels like being back in the Roman era!
Things to See in Jerash
Passing the Visitors’ Center, you will get to Hadrian’s Arch, a large gate constructed for the occasion of Roman emperor Hadrian visiting the city. Continuing straight, you will reach a large colonnaded square, the famous Oval Plaza of Jerash. The South Theater and the Zeus Temple, which are also worth visiting, are located on your left. Continue your visit walking uphill along the Cardo Maximus, the colonnaded main street of the Romans. The central part of the site consists of a large Nymphaeum and the impressive Temple of Artemis, named after one of the main gods of the Romans.
The Northern part of the site consists of another theater and a tetrapylon. However, buildings in the North are less impressive than those situated in the Southern part of the site. In the area behind the Temple of Artemis, there are a few ruins of Byzantine churches and mosaics that are worthwhile.
Plan 2-3 hours to explore the most important buildings of Jerash, or 3-4 hours if you would like to explore the buildings situated in the Northern part and/or the churches.
These are the most interesting buildings in Jerash:
- Hadrian’s Gate
- Oval Plaza (Oval Forum)
- Zeus Temple
- South Theater
- Temple of Artemis
- North Theater
- Churches and Mosaics
Further information on Jerash’s sights and a practical map to find your way through the archaelogical site of Jerash can be found in the Welcome2Jordan travel guide.
Would you like to go back to the times of the Romans? The Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE) regularly organizes a show that brings to life Roman gladiators and horse-drawn carriage races, accompanied by music and live commentaries (in English). This is not a professional performance, but a carefully planned performance by locals, including costumes and equipment made in Jordan. From 2018 onwards, the show is scheduled to take place daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. It takes around 30 minutes and costs JOD 12 per person. Please note that the show is not held during Ramadan.
How to get to Jerash
Located about 45 km north of Amman, Jerash is ideal for a day trip from Amman. Combine your trip with a visit to Ajloun Castle, about 25 km west of Jerash. The day trip can be combined perfectly with a visit to the ancient sites of Pella and Umm Qais, situated further North.
Many visitors opt to rent a car in order to drive around Jordan. Jerash can be easily accessed by rental car from Amman and cars can be parked safely and for free next to the Visitors’ Center. There are also numerous tour operators offering day trips from Amman to Jerash. These tours often include further stops in Ajloun, Pella and Umm Qais and are ideal for people who prefer travelling in a group. Public transport is widely available between Amman and Jerash. A minibus operates between Tabarbour (Amman) to Jerash (JOD 0.80) several times throughout the day. The company JETT offers one-way trips to Jerash as well as round-trips to Jerash in combination with Ajloun (JOD 15).